Life, Speed, passion

by Gianni Cancellieri

The years from 1892 to 1929

The youth

Il piccolo TazioTazio Giorgio Nuvolari was born in Castel d'Ario, not far from Mantua, on the 16th November 1892 at 9 in the morning. Tazio was the fourth son of Arturo Nuvolari (1863-1938, a well off farmer) and his wife Elisa Zorzi (1864-1943, a housewife from Trento). Tazio was a very lively and active boy. He didn't like studying: sports were more interesting for him. His father was a quite good cyclist, while his brother Giuseppe was a champion: the latter won the Italian National Championship several times, scoring some success even abroad in the speed track and in the very first races behind motorcycles. The young Tazio had always felt a great admiration for his uncle, always trying to imitate him.


The speed

On the 5th of September 1904, Tazio saw for the first time a car race: the Circuit of Brescia. He was favourably impressed by the speed and by the ace drivers of that time: Vincenzo Lancia, Nazzaro, Cagno, Hémery, Duray,

His first motorcycle

In 1904 and 1905 two episodes were very important and left a mark on his personality. First of all, one day his uncle Giuseppe tought him to drive a motorcycle. And then, one night Tazio stole his father's car and drove it in the moonlight. Later he said: "I was about 13. How fast was I driving? About 30 KpH, no more...".

"You are not cut out for this job"

His great passion for motorcycles and cars, and his competitive spirit were growing faster and faster. Photos have been found with Tazio standing tall on a motorcycle driving fast along a dusty road, or wearing bonnet and goggles at the wheel of a Scat - a car he never drove during a race, as far as we know. Tazio got the motorcycle race licence in 1915, when he was 23. However, a few months later the war broke out and he was in the Army as driver. He drove Red Cross ambulances, lorries and car with the Officers. One day, while he was driving, he got out of the road. The Official with him said «Listen to me: forget driving. You are not cut out for this job».



The wedding

On November 10th, 1917, Tazio married Carolina Perina (1894-1981) in Milan, with a civil ceremony. On September 4th, 1918, their first child Giorgio was born.




The first races

Le prime corseHis first race was on the 20th of June 1920, at the Circuito Internazionale Motoristico (International Motorcyclist Circuit) in Cremona. He entered the competition with his second name - Giorgio - riding a Della Ferrari. He was forced to retire. On March 20th, 1921, he drove an Ansaldo tipo 4 in his first car race: a reliability trial ("Coppa veronese di regolarità") that he finished first.

During 1922 Tazio moved from Castel d'Ario to Mantua. He started three competitions by motorcycle and one by car: the Circuito del Garda (Garda Meeting) in Salò, where driving an Ansaldo he finished second overall.




Professional pilot

Pilota professionista In 1923, the 31 year old Nuvolari made racing - as well as being his over-riding passion - his own business. Competing mainly on two wheels, he did not take long to be among the leaders. With motorcycles he gained many wins, being less fortunate with the cars. He raced with the Diatto but got along better with the little "Chiribiri tipo Monza".


The first meeting with Enzo Ferrari

During 1924, motorcycles took precedence over cars (nineteen races to five). However, Tazio scored his first overall victory at the "Circuito Golfo del Tigullio", driving a Bianchi 2 litres.
Tazio was driving the Chiribiri Tipo Monza when he had to face a man who was going to be another legend in car racing, though not as a pilot. The big man from Modena, Enzo Ferrari, wrote in his memories: "I met Nuvolari for the first time in front of the Basilica di S. Apollinare in Classe, near Ravenna, during the 2nd "Circuito del Savio". At the start I did not take into consideration that small, thin man; but during the race I realized he was the only one who could threaten my success. I was driving an Alfa Romeo 3 litres while he had a Chiribiri*. We crossed the finishing line in that order, and the same happened a few weeks later at the Circuito del Polesine".

* 1486cm3 powered, versus the 2994cm3 of the RL Sport driven by Ferrari

1925: motorcycles above all

1925In 1925 Nuvolari did not race car at all. These were the years of his consecration as an ace of the two wheelers. However, summoned for a test drive on Sept. 1st, 1925, at Monza, he was given the triumphant P2 - the dominat Gran prix car of those days - to drive. He drove faster and faster for 5 laps - faster than Campari and Marinoni, and close to Antonio Ascari's best lap of the year before. But at the sixth lap, his test drive ended with a spectacular unplanned exit from the track (Nuvolari could have taken the place of Ascari, who was killed at Monthléry a month before; but Vittorio Jano, the Alfa Romeo director racing, would not consider him again until 1929). The car was heavily damaged, the driver injured but 12 days later Tazio, still aching, went to Monza where, with a special bandage, he rode his Bianchi 350 and won the Gran Premio delle Nazioni.

The freccia celeste

La freccia celesten 1926 Tazio was still racing with his Bianchi 350, the legendary "Freccia Celeste" (light blue arrow) and won all major competitions. He had three serious accidents, the first of these on the Solitude Circuit near Stuttgart. He came off the track because of the fog, and was really bad injured. The day after he felt better and left by train to come back to Italy. While crossing the border, he met one of the members of Bianchi team who was going to Stuttgart to see what was happened: the Italian consul, in fact, had sent to Rome a very concerned telegram. Moreover, a German journalist had written about Tazio's death on an evening newspaper.

The campionissimo

He was very popular; they called him the" two wheeler Campionissimo" but he still loved cars.
In 1927, at the wheel of a Bianchi tipo 20, he took part in the first Mille Miglia, finishing tenth overall. But the best results of the season were obtained with his own Bugatti 35, gaining two absolute and convincing wins in the "Gran Premio Reale" di Roma and the "Circuito del Garda".

The Scuderia Nuvolari

Between 1927 and 1928 Tazio made his choice: in order to intensify his own activity as a car driver, he started his own racing team in Mantua. He bought four Bugatti Grand Prix, and then resold two of them to Achille Varzi (Tazio's tough rival; but also one of his best friends) and to Cesare Pastore. The Scuderia Nuvolari's debut, on March 11th, was a triumph: nine days after his second son's birth, Alberto, Tazio won the Gran Prix of Tripoli, scoring his first big international victory. He won also the "Circuito del Pozzo" in Verona, beating the great Pietro Bordino who was to die in an accident shortly afterwwards, during a practice to race the Circuito di Alessandria. So Nuvolari took part in the Circuito di Alessandria - dedicated to the memory of Bordino - honouring the died champion with a great win.

The breaking off with Achille Varzi

Varzi1929 was one of the most difficult years in Nuvolari's life and career. He managed himself his competitive activities, and this was very expensive. The agreement he had with Varzi failed soon afterwards, as two cocks couldn't stay in the same poultry pen. He tried to do his own best, alternating car/motorcycle racing and sporting activities with being a car dealer for Bianchi, Scat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia. He often raced with different cars (Bugatti 35C, OM 665 Speciale, Alfa Romeo 6C 1750SS, Talbot 1500...) but he had such few success. For Tazio, the 1929 was to be considered a year to forget.




Il nome Tazio Nuvolari ed il simbolo della tartaruga TN sono marchi registrati internazionalmente, di proprietà
dell'Automobile Club Mantova; qualunque utilizzo da parte di terzi è soggetto al rilascio di una formale autorizzazione.